Friday, November 21, 2003

On Cybersquatting
Also from yesterday's comments, AJ asks what does cybersquatting mean?
The practice of registering famous brand names as Internet domain names, e.g., ibm.firm or, in the hope of later selling them to the appropriate owner at a profit.

The classic offence of cybersquatting to my recollection originated in the eighties or nineties. It's not such a common phenonemon these days since public entities are a lot more web savvy. But back in the 80s if you were a computer nerd and, like Al Gore, had just invented the internet, you might have found yourself tempted to turn your rare knowledge into cash, by making use of someone else's hard-earned reputation.

Before the mainstream had heard of the Net and before they understood it, you might have had the foresight to realise that there would one day be a market for - let's say - the domain name - even if perhaps you had no closer affiliation to the pop legend than a bad karaoke rendition of Hound Dog at last year's Christmas party. So you register the domain name, among perhaps, many others, etc., etc. Then you sit back and wait.

Fast forward to some years later, in 1990 Elvis Presley's estate realises that there is money to be made in making use of the web and they feel that the domain name they want is the one you have registered. They make enquiries that lead them to your door. You demand an extortionate sum, maybe in the thousands maybe more, to turn over the rights to the name. You are cybersquatting.

Now perhaps in it's strictest sense, as laid out above, cybersquatting requires an intent to make money, and it suggests an acquirement of the disputed domain name in advance of the party with a legitimate claim to it. BendingTruth does not believe that is Troy's intent. And it certainly concedes that Troy did not register his site first (though he has attempted to pretend otherwise)

However this is from Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and their procedure on taking action against a cybersquatter from 1999.

An action can be brought by any person who complains (referred to by ICANN as the "complainant") that:
a) a domain name is identical or confusingly similar to a trademark or service mark in which the complainant has rights
b) the domain name owner has no rights or legitimate interests in the domain name, and
c) the domain name has been registered and is being used in bad faith.

All of these elements must be established in order for the complainant to prevail. If the complainant prevails, the domain name will be canceled or transferred to the complainant

a) Certainly the domain name is confusingly similar to Riverbend has attained rights to her domain name, just as BendingTruth has attained the rights to this domain.

b) Troy has no legitimate interest in the particular domain name he's using, as far as BendingTruth can see.

c) It is beyond reasonable doubt that Troy registered the riverSbend domain, motivated from personal animus to attack Riverbend by underhand means, by pretending to be her, and with the intend to confuse people into thinking she had altered her opinions. Bad faith in this case is a "slam-dunk"

Thus BendingTruth considers that Troy in the above definiton easily falls within the definition of "cybersquatter", and we will continue to attack him on those grounds.